Vedanta is the awakening from unreal to real, from ignorance to bliss. It teaches that anything we can experience with our senses only exists in our mind, which also doesn’t exist. And yet, in realizing that nothingness, Vedanta opens the door to a freedom beyond anything we can imagine. Vedanta is our journey home.
Somewhere—hidden deep within us—is the little spark of memory of our true Self. When we start our spiritual journey, Vedanta is the breath of wisdom that fans that spark, eventually bursting it into open flame, to consume our ignorance and opens our inner eye to the joy of enlightenment.
The Birth of the Vedas
In mythological times, Brahma, the Creator, saw the ignorance and confusion of humankind. With his infinite compassion, he sent his sons to restore the wisdom of Divine Consciousness and alleviate suffering. This wisdom became the Vedas, and Brahma’s sons became the Great Vedic Rishis.
The four principal Vedas and their supporting texts contain the spiritual knowledge encompassing all aspects of life.
However, the essence of each Veda is contained in the parts known as the Upanishads. Upanishad literally means “to sit close by.” So these “hidden” teachings were reserved for those select students deemed ready for higher states of consciousness. While the Vedas prepare us and bring us to the door of enlightenment, the Upanishads lift us over the threshold into the magnificence of Self-realization. Thus, as the culmination of knowledge, they became known as Vedanta, the “end of the Veda.”
The Teachings of Vedanta
Over time, the wisdom of Vedanta has had several interpretations and revivals and has been expressed in texts such as the Bhagavad Gita, Brahma Sutras, and Yoga Vasistha. Its different forms have been taught from the Himalayas to California, and the commentaries by the 8th century Saint Adi Shankara, are the foundation of much of the Chopra teachings. However, through all of its interpretations, the basic premise of Vedanta remains, that there is one truth and the individual soul is one with Brahman, the ultimate reality. Tat Twam Asi: Thou art That.
Vedanta teaches that we are already enlightened, but we have covered it by layers of self-made illusion or maya. It describes our spiritual obstacles as dullness, distraction, attachment, and satisfaction with inferior states of bliss. Its remedies are discrimination between the real and unreal, non-attachment, self-control, and a single-minded longing for truth.
Vedanta doesn’t pretend that the journey is easy –It calls it the “razor’s edge”—but offers us four paths to enlightenment and tells us, “to set our resolve, our ideal and fill our mind with nothing else.”
- Jnana: the path of knowledge, understanding and self-inquiry.
- Bhakti: the path of love and devotion, the simplest path which can be followed by anyone.
- Karma: the path of selfless work, where all action is seen as an offering to the Divine.
- Raja: the ‘Royal Path’ of meditation, mantras and techniques, including the disciplines of the eight limbs of yoga.
Ultimately, Vedanta is the path to silence—the silence which reveals itself when we transcend everything else. The silence of God’s language where we hear the whisper of our true name, Brahman.